The Lies She Told by Lynda Renham

EXCERPT: Nothing made any sense. Kate Marshall came home from school on Friday afternoon after seeing her boys off with her husband. Some time between then and six, someone came and attempted to batter her to death. But why?

‘Who’d want to kill a piano teacher?’ said Alice.

ABOUT ‘THE LIES SHE TOLD’: Life in the village of Stonesend is pretty uneventful, that is until Detective Tom Miller is transferred there following a personal tragedy. He is not greeted well by local police officer Beth Harper, who feels he is not up to the job. The day of his arrival, Kate Marshall, a teacher at the local school, is beaten in her own home and left for dead. The villagers are left in a state of shock. Was it a random attack or something more personal?

MY THOUGHTS: The Lies She Told certainly lives up to its title!

Although I worked out early on what was going on with one thread in the plot, it simply never occurred to me that . . . No, I can’t say, because that would be a spoiler. All I can say is that there are plenty of surprises and twists, and that Kate isn’t the only one who is attacked. While Kate survives, the other victim isn’t so lucky. And no, I am not about to tell you who the other victim is.

Renham had my mind working overtime trying to draw the various threads together into some sort of feasible solution, but although I guessed some things, she definitely bested me! I got the who, and the why, but the how? …. that I couldn’t figure out.

I hope we get to read more of Detective Tom Miller and Beth Harper. They make a great team and I loved the village setting of Stonesend.

The Lies She Told is an enjoyable and sometimes shocking read that will have you pitting your wits against the author’s expertise.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheLiesSheTold

I: @lyndarenham @raucous_

T: @LyndaRenham

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Lynda Renham has been writing for as long as she can remember and had her first work published in a magazine at age nine and has continued writing in various forms since. Lynda lives with her second husband and cat in Oxfordshire, England. She is Associate Editor for the online magazine The Scavenger and contributor to many others. When not writing Lynda can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Lynda Renham and Raucous Publishing for providing a digital ARC of The Lies She Told for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Dream Girl by Laura Lippman

EXCERPT: When the phone rings in the middle of the night, that very night, and Aileen, who tends to doze, does not answer it within three rings, Gerry fumbles for the landline next to his bed, a midcentury Swedish design with a button on the bottom. His head feels cloudy, yet he is alert enough to assume the call will be from Margot, full of recriminations for being booked in business class, which means she has to fetch her own cheese plate from the snack bar.

‘Hello?’

‘Gerry? I’m coming to see you soon.’

‘Who is this?’ Because one thing he is sure of is that it’s not Margot. The voice is too sweet, too high, with a hint of a Southern accent. Also too nice.

‘Oh, Gerry, you’re so funny. It’s Aubrey, Gerry. We need to talk. About my story, about what really happened between us, that mess with your wife. I think it’s time the world knows I’m a real person.’

ABOUT ‘DREAM GIRL’: After being injured in a freak accident, novelist Gerry Andersen lies in a hospital bed in his glamorous but sterile apartment, isolated from the busy world he can see through his windows, utterly dependent on two women he barely knows: his young assistant and a night nurse whose competency he questions.

But Gerry is also beginning to question his own competency. As he moves in and out of dreamlike memories and seemingly random appearances of a persistent ex-girlfriend at his bedside, he fears he may be losing his grip on reality, much like his mother who recently passed away from dementia.

Most distressing, he believes he’s being plagued by strange telephone calls, in which a woman claiming to be the titular character of his hit novel Dream Girl swears she will be coming to see him soon. The character is completely fictitious, but no one has ever believed Gerry when he makes that claim. Is he the victim of a cruel prank—or is he actually losing his mind★ There is no record of the calls according to the log on his phone. Could there be someone he has wronged★ Is someone coming to do him harm as he lies helplessly in bed★

Then comes the morning he wakes up next to a dead body—and realizes his nightmare is just beginning…

MY THOUGHTS: In her author’s notes, Laura Lippman writes, ‘This is a book about what goes on inside a writer’s mind and it is, by my lights, my first work of horror.’ And while I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call Dream Girl a work of horror, it definitely is an enjoyable romp on the darker side. Lippman pays homage to Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, Roth’s ‘Zuckerman Unbound’, and Dukore’s ‘A Novel Called Heritage’, saying that she ‘wanted to further the conversations they began in her head.’ I know exactly what she means.

Lippman’s writing is distinctive. She does a lot of the things I hate and slam other authors for doing. She waffles on in long sentences. She writes stream of consciousness. And I love it. It works – brilliantly. I read Dream Girl in twenty-four hours and Lippman has left me wanting to read Gerry Anderson’s ‘Dream Girl’. I want to read about Aubrey, this elusive figment of Anderson’s (and therefore Lippman’s) imagination – the character that nobody will believe wasn’t real.

Lippman’s characters are extraordinary, and the cast is quite small. Women feature hugely in Gerry’s life. He’s been married three times, and Margot lived with him in New York for several years. He has a female assistant, Victoria, who has the annoying tic of never being able to make a declarative statement, and whose duties expand following his accident to include being his daytime carer. Aileen is employed as his somewhat incompetent and constantly knitting night nurse. Gerry doesn’t appear to have friends, and there’s a dearth of males in his life with the exception of his literary agent. We learn Gerry’s backstory through a dual timeline that is interspersed with his ‘now’ story. We meet his wives and his lovers, but disappointingly learn almost nothing about the writing of his bestseller, ‘Dream Girl.’ Yes, I think I have an obsession with Audrey.

As you may have noticed, I had a hard time putting Dream Girl down, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I honestly had no idea where Lippman was heading with the plot, who was behind the mystery calls, if they were even real, or merely a product of Gerry’s opioid addled brain.

A few people appear to have been disappointed in the ending. I loved it. It seemed strangely fitting. A little comedic. I would love to see Dream Girl made into a movie. I would definitely go to see it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#DreamGirl #NetGalley

I: @lauramlippman @faberbooks

T: @LauraMLippman @FaberBooks

THE AUTHOR: Laura lives in Baltimore with her husband, David Simon, and their daughter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Faber and Faber Ltd via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dream Girl by Laura Lippman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads.com

The Man I Married by Elena Wilkes

EXCERPT: Blood has a smell.

I look around me. I’m sitting on a bench.

It comes again.

It’s visceral, like meat.

I gaze down at my hands. I don’t recognize them; they lie upturned and curled in my scarlet-stained lap. Every crease is dark with what looks like rust. My palms open like flowers and I feel the skin stretch and tighten. A cold breeze skims the wet patches on my dress. The wool sticks unpleasantly to my skin and a chill slides down my spine.

I close my eyes.

Behind the lids the dying winter sunlight zigzags in orange and purple flashes. Somewhere behind the bushes I can hear the girls, giggling. I squint; I can’t see them now, but I know they’re there.

‘You can’t hide in here forever you know!’

There’s a woman’s voice. She’s getting closer.

‘I think it’s time we should be going though, don’t you? Come on.’

I squint. The viburnum bush trembles; its propeller-headed flowers nod and bounce in bright pink bells against the thicket of black. I imagine her reaction as she walks past. She’ll see the state of me and I’ll see her face: the shock at my matted hair and disheveled clothes. She doesn’t know who I am and I don’t want to scare her. ‘You don’t know me -‘ I’ll say. She’ll look at me, wary and unsure.

‘-But can I tell you what happened? I think you’ll understand when I explain.’ I’ll hold out my hands and she’ll see the state of them.

I know my story is also her story.

I’ve done this for her, for the children, for all of us… that’s why he’s dead.

ABOUT ‘THE MAN I MARRIED’: This is the story of Lucy and Paul.

They met. They fell deeply in love. They got married.

Lucy thought that she had everything she wanted.

Until she found the photograph from Paul’s past life, read the text messages he’s so desperately trying to hide. Until she uncovered Paul’s darkest secrets.

Now Lucy realizes she doesn’t really know her husband. She doesn’t know if she can trust her own mind. She doesn’t know the lengths Paul would go to keep his perfect life.

And worst of all, she doesn’t know that she’s in danger…

MY THOUGHTS: The character of Lucy both irritated me and intrigued me. I couldn’t understand why she married this man. I couldn’t understand why she continued to stay married to this man. I wanted to slap some sense into her. I wanted to watch the train wreck that I knew was coming.

Paul is a master manipulator. He plays Lucy like a virtuoso. He has a past that he continually lies about. Lucy is afraid that his past is colliding with her present. But how can she tell what is true and what isn’t?

Although there were things in The Man I Married that didn’t quite gel for me, and Lucy comes across as desperate and unhinged, I enjoyed it. This was due in part to the relentless pace of the plot, but also to the sterling narration by Colleen Prendergast.

My jury is still out on the ending. It’s quite a strange ending, and I am not totally convinced that this was the best possible outcome.

The Man I Married is Elena Wilkes debut novel, and I am excited to see what she writes next.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheManIMarried #NetGalley

I: #elenawilkes #sagaegmont

T:

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #domesticdrama #mystery #psychologicalthriller #romanticsuspense

THE AUTHOR: Elena Wilkes grew up in Walsall in the West Midlands and then worked for eighteen years in H.M Prison Service. The people she met there provided the basis for all her novels.

Many of the prisoners there came across as very ordinary people who had committed the most appalling crimes but would, one day, walk straight back on the streets.

This begged the question: how much do we know about anyone, really? The people who live amongst us may seem no different from us at all, but when you scratch a little deeper, you realise they hold some very dark secrets.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Saga Egmont Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of The Man I Married written by Elena Wilkes and narrated by Colleen Prendergast for review.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads.com

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher

EXCERPT: ‘Willy,’ she had said, nudging her shoulder into his where they sat on the stoop together, her voice small and papery, like it might blow away. ‘I don’t think my momma likes it here no more.’

‘Now, girl,’ he said, patting her knee, ‘what makes you say such things?’ But his heart had already tightened in his chest because he’d been thinking the same thing, the very same thing. May wasn’t happy, and it didn’t seem right since he had thought for sure she would be. He had been so proud to bring her home on their wedding day, and after that first night with her, feeling so good, he couldn’t imagine she would feel any different from him.

That was just the thing that confounded him – that he could feel one way and she could feel another. Of late, when he touched her, she just lay still, not saying ‘no’ to him, but like she’d taken out her heart and set it aside. And just last night, when he’d lifted his head from the sweet-salty crook of her neck, she lay wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling, and he couldn’t go on.

It was a terrible thing, to feel connected to a woman and then find out you weren’t really touching her at all. Something like that made a man start asking questions that he didn’t want to know the answers to.

But even then, at that moment, with Lacey tucked against his shoulder and his hand patting her knee, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that May would disappear the way she did, that she could just quit the life they had like it meant nothing, leaving him and little Lacey without even so much as a ‘so long and see ya later’. Gone. Like a breath that has been inhaled and exhaled and done with.

ABOUT ‘A HAND TO HOLD IN DEEP WATER’: Willy Cherrymill and his stepdaughter Lacey are deeply bruised by a past brimming with unanswered questions. It’s been thirty years since May DuBerry, Willy’s young wife and Lacey’s mother, abandoned them both leaving Willy to raise Lacey alone.

Lacey Cherrymill is smart, stubborn and focused. She’s also a single mother to a young daughter recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. The last thing she needs to think about right now is the betrayal that rocked her childhood. Reluctantly, she has returned to her rural beginnings, a former dairy farm in the Maryland countryside, and to Willy, a man steeped in his own disappointments and all the guilt that goes with them.

Together they will pool their wobbly emotional resources to take care of Tasha, all the while trying to skirt the issue of May’s mysterious disappearance. But try as she might, Lacey can’t leave it alone. Just where is May DuBerry Cherrymill and why did she leave them, and how is it that they have never talked about the wreckage she left behind?

MY THOUGHTS: The writing in A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is beautiful, lyrical. It flows like molasses from a spoon. It is a novel that drew me in so that I was breathing the same air that the characters breathed, experiencing their triumphs, their pain, feeling their emotions, living their lives
along with them.

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is an exploration of love – the love of a mother for her daughter, her need to protect her daughter at any cost, even that of her own happiness.

At first I thought this story belonged to Lacey and her daughter Tasha, as Tasha is diagnosed with cancer and their battle with this demon is the predominating thread, with the mystery of May surfacing only occasionally. But gradually the tables turn as Lacey faces up to her need to know just what happened to her mother, her need to know her mother and where she came from. And so she packs up Lacey and Willy and Carlotta, and they embark on a mission to find out just who May duBarry was.

The story is split between the ‘present’, being the mid-2000s, and the ‘past’ of the early 1970s. The story is interspersed with May’s diary entries. I found the telling of Tasha’s battle with cancer difficult to read. It is a brutally honest, no holds barred account. But it was worth getting through, because it is May’s story that is the crux of the book.

This is very much a character driven novel. If you are looking for action and excitement, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a beautiful, tender and heart-piercing story of family, love, sacrifice, secrets and shame, then you couldn’t do better than pick up A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher.

I both read and listened to A Hand to Hold in Deep Water. Elizabeth Evans is a wonderful narrator, and enriched my experience with this book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#AHandtoHoldinDeepWater #NetGalley

I: @shawnnocher @ blackstonepublishing

T: @shawn_nocher @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #love #mystery #sliceoflife #audiobook

THE AUTHOR: Shawn Nochers compelling short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Eunoia Review, and MoonPark Review, and she has been longlisted or won honorable mentions from both SmokeLong Quarterly and Glimmer Train.

She earned her master of arts in writing at Johns Hopkins University, has given wings to two children, and lives with her husband and an assortment of sassy rescue animals in Baltimore, Maryland, where she writes in a room of her own. This is her first novel. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and Blackstone Audio via Netgalley for providing both a digital and an audio ARC of A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

We’ve had beautiful weekend. Temperatures below zero at night, heavy frosts, and glorious days. I have had a busy weekend. Luke came for sleepover Friday night. I have been trying different paint colours for the lounge and dining room and we have finally settled on a lovely soft sea green.

My reading travels have kept me mainly in the UK this week, in Nottingham and London, with a trip to Australia, the Loire Valley in France, and Baltimore in the USA. Have you been anywhere interesting in your reading travels this week?

Currently I am reading and loving Dream Girl by Laura Lippman. I have no idea where this is going to end up, but I am loving the journey.

I am also reading Death and Croissants by Ian Moore. I am loving the reticent character of Richard, and the ebullient exotic one of Valerie.

I am listening to Know No Evil by Graeme Hampton

This week I plan to read The Lies She Told by Linda Renham

Life in the village of Stonesend is pretty uneventful, that is until Detective Tom Miller is transferred there following a personal tragedy. He is not greeted well by local police officer Beth Harper, who feels he is not up to the job. The day of his arrival, Kate Marshall, a teacher at the local school, is beaten in her own home and left for dead. The villagers are left in a state of shock. Was it a random attack or something more personal? 

Cabin Fever by Alex Dahl

You are her therapist.
Kristina is a successful therapist in central Oslo. She spends her days helping clients navigate their lives with a cool professionalism that has got her to the top.

She is your client.
But when her client Leah, a successful novelist, arrives at her office clearly distressed, begging Kristina to come to her remote cabin in the woods, she feels the balance begin to slip.

But out here in the woods.
When Leah fails to turn up to her next two sessions, Kristina reluctantly heads out into the wilderness to find her.

Nothing is as it seems.
Alone and isolated, Kristina finds Leah’s unfinished manuscript, and as she reads she realises the main character is terrifyingly familiar..

And The Stalker by Sarah Alderson

Newly-weds Liam and Laura are spending their honeymoon in paradise: just the two of them on a remote island off the coast of Scotland.
But they soon discover that all is not as it seems, and the island has a tragic past. And they can’t shake the feeling of being watched…

When one morning, they wake to find a message scratched into the window, their worst fears are confirmed. They aren’t alone on the island.

And this stranger wants them dead.

I received three new ARCs this week:

Lost Angels (Nikki Hunt #3) by Stacy Green

Home Sweet Home by Nicole Trope

And I Let Him In by Jill Childs

What lovely new reads have you received this week?

The wall between my kitchen and dining room has gone, and what a difference that has made. My kitchen feels much larger lighter. Unfortunately my kitchen is still being held up by a lack of drawer glides. For third month in row, none have arrived. But I have ordered all new replacement windows for along the front of the house, and my new laundry is in. So a little progress has been made.

Happy reading my friends!❤📚

Insider by Owen Mullen (The Glass Family #2)

EXCERPT: The van turned right into a deserted Great Eastern Street and on until traffic lights on City Road stopped its progress. The engine idled, the acrid smell of diesel drifted on the air. Freddy tapped the wheel with his finger.

‘He was a homo, old Ronnie, did I mention that? Queer as a bottle of chips. And Reggie was bisexual. Had sex with each other to keep it a secret. God’s honest. Ronnie admitted as much to some geezer writing a book about them. Not many-‘

The bullet exploded the side window, ending the monologue, entered his heart, killing him instantly. The rear doors flew open. A rapid burst of fire from a semiautomatic carbine sprayed the inside, thudding into the minders, making them dance like drunken puppets; they were dead before they could draw their guns. One of the assassins manhandled Freddy’s lifeless body into the passenger seat, while the other two got into the back beside the slain guards. When the lights turned green, the van pulled away. Nobody saw. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had. In this part of town people were smart enough to keep their noses out of what didn’t concern them – no different to the night Ronnie Kray had walked into the Blind Beggar and shot George Cornell.

It had taken all of thirty seconds to kill three men and steal two hundred thousand pounds.

Freddy would’ve been impressed. What a story that would’ve been.

ABOUT ‘INSIDER’: Someone’s playing both sides and now they have a score to settle…
When the family business is crime, you can never be sure who to trust. And when three of their businesses are hit in one night, the notorious Glass family close ranks. Either someone is sending them a message or a war is coming…

With trouble coming from all sides, the heads of the Glass family have more than enough to deal with, but all bets are off when a stranger from the past enters the game, causing division and mistrust.

Crooked cops, rival gangs and old enemies are bad enough, but when the trouble comes from the inside, loyalties are tested, with deadly consequences.

MY THOUGHTS: I am on record, more than once, as having said that I don’t like books about gangs and organised crime. It’s time I added a qualifier to that statement: I don’t like books about gangs and organised crime, unless they are written by Owen Mullen.

Mullen has written a fast paced thriller centred around the Glass family, and although it follows on from the first book in this series, Family, Insider possibly could be read as a stand-alone. But believe me, you would be missing out on some damned fine writing and the story behind the Glass empire.

This is a family for whom the answer to any and every problem is violence. And yet the violence in Insider is not gratuitous. I didn’t skip one word of this book. Everything worked and worked superbly.

The characters are ones that I should, by rights, dislike. They are criminals. Life is cheap. But I don’t dislike them. I have a sneaking admiration for them. I enjoy the family rivalries, and I particularly liked the introduction of Charley – is she who she claims to be, Luke and Nina’s sister, or is she someone else altogether? The same question applies to ex-DI Mark Douglas.

Mullen has written a tautly executed thriller that will have you reading much later into the night than you intend. And no, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. It’s evident in Insider from beginning to end.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Insider #OwenMullen

I: @owenmullen6 #BoldwoodBooks

T: @OwenMullen6 @BoldwoodBooks

#fivestarread #crime #familydrama #contemporaryfiction #suspense #thriller #series

THE AUTHOR: Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His great love for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where all of his crime thrillers were created.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Owen Mullen for providing a digital ARC of his novel Insider (The Glass Family #2) for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Evidence by K.L. Slater

EXCERPT: Simone is sitting at a table, dressed casually in jeans and a lemon tunic top. The women at Bronzefield are permitted to wear their own clothes. Her brown hair is tied back in a loose ponytail and I’m struck by her ordinariness. She looks like your mum, your aunt . . . a random woman you might see shopping in the supermarket.

Yet the majority of the British public detests her. This woman who faced her abusive husband and said, ‘No more.’

ABOUT ‘THE EVIDENCE’: Everyone’s heard of Simone Fischer. The young mother accused of killing her husband in cold blood, one sunny afternoon, while their son played in the room next door.

So when journalist Esme secures an exclusive interview with her it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. Simone has remained silent since her husband’s death but after a decade in prison, she is willing to talk to Esme. And Esme, recently freed from her own toxic marriage, is confident she can get Simone to open up.

At their first meeting, when Esme sees Simone sitting across the table from her in jeans and a lemon tunic top, she is stuck by her ordinariness. Then Simone begins to tell her story of an abusive relationship where she was a prisoner in her own home, and Esme decides that the truth needs to come out.

But not everyone is pleased that Esme is telling Simone’s story. And when Esme’s beloved sister is left for dead in a nearby wood, Esme’s life begins to unravel. Forced to question what Simone has told her, she can’t help but wonder if murder was the only way out of Simone’s marriage. Why has it taken Simone so long to tell the world the truth? And will the consequences be devastating for Esme?

MY THOUGHTS: For the first two thirds of this read, I was thinking it was nothing special. But then . . . Then Slater started working the magic she had insidiously been building up to. All of a sudden the things I thought were facts, weren’t. The ‘truth’ wasn’t, and I was bombarded with new suspicions and finally, revelations.

I had an inkling about one of the twists, but my imaginings fell far short of where Slater was taking me. It was like getting on a train intending to get off at the next stop, then finding myself at the other end of the island.

The characters are not at all likeable. Esme seemed ‘cold’, except with Zachary with whom she was overprotective. But, in the circumstances that, at least, is understandable. I didn’t like her husband, Owen, at all. He made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in a most unpleasant way. Then, when his mother, Esme’s mother-in-law, is introduced into the story, I understood why. She is an absolute nightmare.

One thing that really had me wondering was the lack of support for Simone. This is a woman who was convicted of murdering her abusive husband, a man who had systematically cut her off from friends and family, who belittled and bullied her. And she was despised. Where were the women’s support groups?

Slater addresses a whole raft of subjects in The Evidence. Particularly interesting is the relationship between Esme and her sister Michelle, who not only work together, but live together. Each of the sisters sees their relationship very differently. There is marital breakdown, sibling bonds and rivalry, family relationships, spousal abuse, murder, fraud, and more . . .

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheEvidence #NetGalley

I: @KLSlaterAuthor @bookouture

T: @KimLSlater @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #crime #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents and collected an impressive stack of rejection slips. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating in 2012, she gained literary agent representation and a book deal. As Kim says, ‘it was a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottinghamshire with her husband.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Evidence by K.L. Slater for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley

EXCERPT: I stared at the clock on the wall. It said one-thirty, but surely it wasn’t the afternoon already.

I sunk further into the sagging back of the chair. I felt small and sad and very sorry for myself. Things that had previously consoled or even gladdened me were no longer doing the trick. I felt out of kilter, like a crooked painting on the wall, or a cheese straw without paprika. A house with no windows. A dog with one ear. I could go on. I could go to the library and look up section 400-499 English Language to find the perfect metaphor, but would it actually fix anything? I glanced at the clock again. It was still one-thirty. Had the clock stopped? Who knew? All I did know was that I was frozen in time, shackled to my self-pity, my grief, my fears. I was like the ‘i’ in the middle of my name, trapped between other letters, unable to break free. I wanted to be alone, yet I was lonely. I wanted to stay home, yet I felt isolated. I wanted to be with my husband, but he was dead. Tears sprung forth as if I was chopping onions, and my heart flapped so vigorously that, had it been windy outside with no roof over the house, I may have taken off. I couldn’t bear the sight of the clock looming over me, reminding me of my fate, any longer.

With a surge of adrenalin and rage, I exploded from the armchair, my focus solely on pulling the wooden-framed clock with its black numbers and unmoving hands off the wall. I saw nothing else, not even Jack. I should have, because there he was, in the way. My foot clipped the underside of the suitcase and got stuck. I upended the wheels, lost my balance, and floundered. A flaying arm knocked the christmas tree, the suitcase handle right-jabbed my chin and I fell as if in slow motion, landing with a thud on the living room floor, two suitcase wheels and five christmas tree branches needling me in the back. My right ankle was at a wrong angle and my left wrist in pain. And it was still one-thirty.

ABOUT ‘GERALDINE VERNE’S RED SUITCASE’: Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for three months.

It takes an accident for Geri to accept help from her friends, but when Meals on Wheels arrive she is mortified. Yet heartbroken volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie and custard. Like Geri, she too is struggling to cut loose.

As a gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms, Geraldine begins to feel a long-lost spark of life and a newfound confidence. Perhaps what both women needed most, after all, was each other.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book. I loved Geraldine. I loved Lottie. I enjoyed every tear I shed as I was reading, and every laugh that escaped my lips. And there was plenty of both. I even loved the chapter titles: 306.7 Love; Apple Crumble Days; Toilet Paper; Whisky and Cake . . .

Divided into four parts, the story is told entirely from the perspective of Geri (Geraldine), mostly in a linear timeline with occasional flashbacks in the form of memories. It is a story of grief, the grief of a woman who has lost the love of her life after more than 50 years together. Geraldine describes their relationship as being like a pair of shoes, one left, one right. They were not the same but complemented one another, they worked well together. But now that she is only one shoe . . . well, you see her problem.

She thinks that if she just pretends he’s still there, and he is, then everything will be all right. She still makes him cups of tea, puts out biscuits for him, dances with him. And if she can shut out the world that is going to remind her that he’s not there, all the better. But the world has other plans for Geri, as did ‘Jackie-Boy’.

Geri is one stubborn lady. I have to admit to seeing more than a little of myself in her. I loved her kind heart, her sense of humor. I loved her devotion to Jack. I loved Jack.

Even the supporting characters are ‘characters’. I am sure that we all know a Len, a Crystal and a Sue.

The first part of this book is sad. I cried a lot, and laughed a little. The second part I laughed a lot and cried a little. Parts three and four are mostly humorous, heartwarming and just occasionally sad.

This is the second book by this author, but the first that I have read. I will be seeking out her first.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#GeraldineVernesRedSuitcase #NetGalley

I: #JaneRiley #AmazonPublishingUK

T: @JaneRileyAuthor

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Hi, I’m Jane Riley!

I was born and raised in New Zealand. After graduating from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in French and English literature, I headed to Europe to practise my French, got waylaid in Germany and ended up in Australia.

I have had a varied career in public relations, publishing, freelancing as a writer and editor, and launching an online e-commerce business, which involved writing a design blog interviewing makers and creators. When The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock was published, I achieved my dream of becoming a full-time author.

I live in Sydney with my husband, an energetic but scared-of-heights Australian cattle dog-staffy cross, and two daughters old enough to not be living at home anymore. I volunteer as an English language tutor for the Adult Migrant English Program, am learning the piano and teaching myself Italian.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK for providing a digital ARC of Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Hope Chest by Carolyn Brown

EXCERPT: ‘You haven’t changed a bit.’ Flynn slapped her hand away. ‘I think they mixed us all up as babies. I should have been born the preacher’s son, and you should have been the daughter of the greatest smart-ass in Texas.’

‘That’s pretty much what my daddy told me this very morning. You wouldn’t have lasted overnight in the house I grew up in.’ Nessa went back to the stove and browned some more toast in the big cast-iron skillet.

‘As bossy as you are Nessa, and as smug as you are Flynn, y’all would have wilted and died if you’d grown up here,’ April said. ‘Nanny Lucy was a wonderful lady, but she could put a guilt trip on a person that went all the way to the bottom of the soul, and believe me when I tell you that she knew very well how to wield a switch. Ten licks was the minimum.’

‘Are you serious?’ Nessa was stunned.

‘Y’all knew her as a sweet nanny for two weeks. Somehow you being here was when she had good days,’ April answered. ‘But I was the bastard offspring of the daughter who had disappointed her and then died four days after I was born. At least once a day, and more in the days after y’all left and went back home, she reminded me that I had my mother’s genes, and I knew that was a bad thing by her tone. It didn’t seem to matter if she was having a good or a bad day. I was always a thorn in her side.’

Nessa could well understand what April was saying. Looking back, she’d always felt like one of those thorns for her father. ‘I guess that’s where my daddy got his ability to make me feel guilty about even the air I breathe.’ Nessa talked as she cooked breakfast. ‘He could put a guilt trip on Jesus, and he practiced on me almost daily.’

Both women glanced over at Flynn.

‘Hey, my dad was always too busy either chasing women, marrying them then chasing women, or getting divorced because his wife caught him chasing women to ever even talk to me.’ Flynn shrugged. ‘I was just a bratty kid that he didn’t want to raise but had to when my mama died. I did pretty much what I wanted from the time I went to live with him – no questions asked except on payday, when he held out his hand for half of what I made to pay for my room and board in his house.’

‘We should call that childhood the O’Reilly curse.’

ABOUT ‘THE HOPE CHEST’: An inheritance has reunited three estranged cousins. Their grandmother Lucy left Nessa, Flynn, and April her home nestled in the woods near Blossom, Texas, as well as a hope chest to be unlocked after they complete a special task. Together, they must hand-stitch a cherished quilt Lucy left unfinished. It meant everything to her. And now, to three people struggling with their own patchwork pasts…

To Nessa, the house has always been an escape from her strict parents—a home away from home. Flynn has followed a profligate path into adulthood, never guessing it would lead him here. And the town of Blossom only stirs up a lifetime of disappointments for April. Lost and with nowhere to go, her last chance is helping fulfill Nanny Lucy’s final wish.

Thread by healing thread, Nessa, Flynn, and April bond over the quilt and all it represents. As they discover the family they’ve been looking for in one another, they share more than memories. They share the hope of new beginnings.

MY THOUGHTS: The Hope Chest is a warm and comforting read. Carolyn Brown writes wonderful characters, interesting characters that have the reader firmly in their camp, rooting for the best possible outcome for them.

Nessa, Flynn, and April have all had terrible childhoods and have each reacted in different ways, but ways that have brought them no happiness. Flung together by fate in the form of Nanny Lucy’s last will and testament, they are initially resentful and wary of one another. The Hope Chest charts their journey through repairing both their childhood relationships with one another, and their damaged self image.

Although described as a romance, The Hope Chest is so much more. There is mystery surrounding Nanny Lucy’s past, and a heartwarming thread involving the rebuilding of family relationships, and forgiveness. Brown also touches on mental illness in the forms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and the damage caused when it goes undiagnosed.

I have loved everything I have read by this author, and The Hope Chest is no exception.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.2

#TheHopeChest #NetGalley

I: @carolynbrownbooks #montlake

T: @thecarolynbrown #Montlake

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth #mystery #romance

THE AUTHOR: Hi! I’m twenty five years old and movie star gorgeous. The camera added thirty plus years and a few wrinkles. Can’t trust those cameras or mirrors either. Along with bathroom scales they are notorious liars! Honestly, I am the mother of three fantastic grown children who’ve made me laugh and given me more story ideas than I could ever write. My husband, Charles, is my strongest supporter and my best friend. He’s even willing to eat fast food and help with the laundry while I finish one more chapter! Life is good and I am blessed!

Reading has been a passion since I was five years old and figured out those were words on book pages. As soon as my chubby little fingers found they could put words on a Big Chief tablet with a fat pencil, I was on my way. Writing joined reading in my list of passions. I will read anything from the back of the Cheerio’s box to Faulkner and love every bit of it. In addition to reading I enjoy cooking, my family and the ocean. I love the Florida beaches. Listening to the ocean waves puts my writing brain into high gear.

I love writing romance because it’s about emotions and relationships. Human nature hasn’t changed a bit since Eve coveted the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Settings change. Plots change. Names change. Times change. But love is love and men and women have been falling in and out of it forever. Romance is about emotions: love, hate, anger, laughter… all of it. If I can make you laugh until your sides ache or grab a tissue then I’ve touched your emotions and accomplished what every writer sets out to do.

I got serious about writing when my third child was born and had her days and nights mixed up. I had to stay up all night anyway and it was very quiet so I invested in a spiral back notebook and sharpened a few pencils. The story that emerged has never sold but it’s brought in enough rejection slips to put the Redwood Forest on the endangered list.

Folks ask me where I get my ideas. Three kids, fifteen grandchildren, two great grandchildren. Note: I was a very young grandmother! Life is a zoo around here when they all come home. In one Sunday afternoon there’s enough ideas to keep me writing for years and years. Seriously, ideas pop up at the craziest times. When one sinks its roots into my mind, I have no choice but to write the story. And while I’m writing the characters peek over my shoulder and make sure I’m telling it right and not exaggerating too much. Pesky little devils, they are!

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Montlake via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Hope Chest by Carolyn Brown for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

I’ve done quite a lot of travelling through my reading this week. I’ve been to Mauritius, London and Sydney; Blossom, Texas; Maryland; and Berlin. Now I think I am a little jet-lagged. Where have you been in your reading travels this past week?

I have just started reading The Evidence by K.L. Slater.

and am two-thirds of the way through the audiobook A Hand to Hold in Deep Water written by Shawn Nocher and narrated by Elizabeth Evans.

This week I am planning on reading Dream Girl by Laura Lippman

After being injured in a freak accident, novelist Gerry Andersen lies in a hospital bed in his glamorous but sterile apartment, isolated from the busy world he can see through his windows, utterly dependent on two women he barely knows: his young assistant and a night nurse whose competency he questions.

But Gerry is also beginning to question his own competency. As he moves in and out of dreamlike memories and seemingly random appearances of a persistent ex-girlfriend at his bedside, he fears he may be losing his grip on reality, much like his mother who recently passed away from dementia.

Most distressing, he believes he’s being plagued by strange telephone calls, in which a woman claiming to be the titular character of his hit novel Dream Girl swears she will be coming to see him soon. The character is completely fictitious, but no one has ever believed Gerry when he makes that claim. Is he the victim of a cruel prank—or is he actually losing his mind★ There is no record of the calls according to the log on his phone. Could there be someone he has wronged★ Is someone coming to do him harm as he lies helplessly in bed★

Then comes the morning he wakes up next to a dead body—and realizes his nightmare is just beginning… 

And Insider by Owen Mullen

Someone’s playing both sides and now they have a score to settle…
When the family business is crime, you can never be sure who to trust. And when three of their businesses are hit in one night, the notorious Glass family close ranks. Either someone is sending them a message or a war is coming…

With trouble coming from all sides, the heads of the Glass family have more than enough to deal with, but all bets are off when a stranger from the past enters the game, causing division and mistrust.

Crooked cops, rival gangs and old enemies are bad enough, but when the trouble comes from the inside, loyalties are tested, with deadly consequences.

And the approvals resulting from my requesting spree a couple of weeks are still arriving in my inbox. Six this week.

Darkness Falls by Robert Bryndza

The Butterfly Garden by Sophie Anderson (thank you Carla)

Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old by Steven Petrow (thanks again Carla), although I wonder if reading this might not be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted . . .

All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard. I believe I coveted this from Shelleyrae’s list last week.

Barefoot in the Sand by Holly Chamberlain (Susan? Carla? Both? I really can’t remember….)

and Mrs March by Virginia Feito

What new reads have you received this week?

Whatever you are reading, have a wonderful week!